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TheEarnestBunbury

Designing Pulp Book Covers

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I've been working on how to create book covers that imitate those of the pulpy paperbacks of years past. The idea was to work on a method that others could use as a viable - and so necessarily cheap - option for the self and Indie publishing market. I had been making do with an old version of Photoshop Elements that came with my Bamboo Fun & Touch tablet but decided to take the plunge and try Affinity Photo when I got a new computer, and that turned out to be a very good decision.

So... I start off in a program nobody likes to mention - Poser. I'm not too fussy about render settings as so much is changed in post, what matters is the figure, the posing, and the lighting. The result is then opened in Affinity Photo, where I start with some adjustment layers (highlights/shadows, brightness/contrast, colour balance), along with a plug-in from Topaz called Simplicity. This result is then saved out and opened up in a paint program called Art Rage and then attacked with an oil brush and knife to leave me with a faux painting.

In Affinity Photo, I've been building some book cover templates and the faux painting is introduced there, with some wear and tear added for a display version. The two designs I've posted here were both based on Mike Shayne covers (the first is one I've seen copied by other publishers, the second is a bit of a classic - enough for someone to have created a font based on it).

For very simple designs like this - ie a single figure with one or two props, and also assuming a cover design template is used, then the production time can be between 2-3hrs. I believe that someone more skilled than myself can probably do both a better job of it and at a faster time but even at my speed, I think this could mean a low enough cost for the target market. I don't think I'm ever going to be sufficiently happy with my own efforts to enter that market myself (or, to be honest, with enough free time), so I would like to encourage others to have a go themselves.

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Looks very good. The artwork matches the pulp paperback style very well.

I use a similar technique, but I often go for more of an 80's book cover look. I usually shoot backgrounds first. Then I render 3D elements with Daz Studio, and combine with the background photos in Affinity Photo. Finally, I use Dynamic Auto-Painter to convert to a painted image.

I have done the paint conversion in Affinity Photo a couple of times, with the paint mixer tool. Takes a lot of time, but works very well.

 

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Hi, I was just looking at a couple of your posts and was very impressed with what you have done with compositing and Dynamic Auto-Painter (also your T-Rex mouth-cam, which was great fun).

I do think that 3D models lend themselves very well to a natural media finish - partly because of the uncanny valley. Photos of faces that have been filtered this way, often fail to sell the effect because it can't hide the exactness of the photographic source, while the little failings in a 3D model that gives rise to the uncanny valley in photo-realism, actually help sell a natural media effect, suggesting the imperfect hand of an artist over the perfect rendition of film.

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On 9/16/2018 at 9:08 PM, TheEarnestBunbury said:

I do think that 3D models lend themselves very well to a natural media finish - partly because of the uncanny valley. Photos of faces that have been filtered this way, often fail to sell the effect because it can't hide the exactness of the photographic source, while the little failings in a 3D model that gives rise to the uncanny valley in photo-realism, actually help sell a natural media effect, suggesting the imperfect hand of an artist over the perfect rendition of film.

I agree. A couple of years ago, a few of my friends and I created a graphic novel, A Rift in Time. We are photographers, so we photographed all the backgrounds and the live action, then composited in everything we could not shoot live, like dinosaurs. We used toy dinosaurs.

We had a choice between making the dinosaurs look realistic, which was possible but required an enormous amount of work, or to make everything else look less realistic. We went the latter route, and made fairly simple composites, which we then converted so they looked like drawings using Comic Life.

Now, we are working on a new story, and the plan is to render as much as possible using Daz Studio, composite in Affinity Photo, convert to paintings in Dynamic Auto-Painter, and do the layout in Affinity Publisher...if the final version is as good as we hope it will be. We are testing the beta right now.

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I haven't posted in an age it seems. Still, now that I have Affinity Publisher, I'm keen to get into typesetting. To train myself up, I thought I would hunt down a few classics in the public domain, which in turn is going to mean book covers. I've found that Lulu do pocketbook sized paperbacks and so that's what I've prepared this for (it's only about 4in x 7in.) - obviously, I won't have the wear and tear on there for printing a book for myself but it looks good for display.

I've based the layout on the same source as my first post here and will continue using it for other classics I practice on as I like the idea of using the top and spine colour to indicate genre, while the layout provides branding more than the logo does. I must admit that I'm quite looking forward to reading this book again, as well has having it back on my bookshelf (it was something lost in a move). 

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Hi, I found them nice, especially the painting of the second one (there's something I don't like in the hair of the first one, I'm not sure what it is… perhaps the light stroke around the head?).

But perhaps "Vicious vignette" need a little bit more work on the text. It looks like a draft, not finished. Perhaps it needs some shadows or a stroke to look less like the begining of drawing some characters?

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On 9/16/2018 at 8:18 PM, TheEarnestBunbury said:

For very simple designs like this - ie a single figure with one or two props, and also assuming a cover design template is used, then the production time can be between 2-3hrs. I believe that someone more skilled than myself can probably do both a better job of it and at a faster time but even at my speed, I think this could mean a low enough cost for the target market. I don't think I'm ever going to be sufficiently happy with my own efforts to enter that market myself (or, to be honest, with enough free time),

I have indeed entered in that market (among other stuff) and I can tell you that your work has enough quality. :)  And more considering that it contains a very nostalgic vibe, and that can be worth it for a lot for consumers (specially around 40s and + ;) ) ...but also "newer" people liking vintage and etc, and that's quite a bunch.

If only, the one with the red banner, she has a problem in the neck, mostly in the wrinkles and anatomy. There's stuff to fix there, IMHO (I'm almost tempted to do a paint-over, lol, I'm 'almost' obsessive with anatomy drawing) . 

The last one is great. Love the style. (well , love the style in all of them, you got my likes). But there's an issue in the thumb finger. (let me know if u allow me to make a paint over, as is hard to explain... But if not, just painting over the dark shadows in that thumb, that are there from a bending of the 3D geometry, with a light flesh tone like the rest of the hand, would go quite far. )

Moon pool, that lighting brings me the memories of certain comic books covers, novels covers and even film posters from certain years (the overall style was used very often in the 70s and later, tho probably comes from the 50s and 60s and even from before). One thing is, careful with the camera at the poser "posing" time, if it has too "accelerated" lens, it can distort in an unwanted way (too little perspective or FOV, can also look weird). Right now I am not very sure, but it could have happened that this fact might have made the arm look too long and there's not enough context to explain the forced perspective. I might be wrong, tho.
 

I'm typically very against using any 3D as a base for painting (while a lot of comic artists use it, also illustrators, concept and matte painters) , particularly human anatomy and specially against Poser. (I paint all from scratch). But these are extremely well treated, I mostly see your strokes. After some significant effort (as I was not looking at the first shots, neither reading, lol), I did guess it was poser before even reading the text, but is very well hidden, and I only knew 'cause I'm very familiar from seeing it in many portfolios, poser facial expression and anatomy is very particular. A regular reader wont notice in a million years, in my opinion.  Unless having worked as an artist, or anything similar.

I totally love all the editing work, fonts, the old book treatment.... gorgeous.

I am sorry if c & c (critics and comments) are not welcome (every forum has its rules, not sure about here) , so, I did not only dropped praise. :) . I typically only say a praise sentence or just put the like.  But realistic -even if super stylish like this- illustration is one of my main things, in a big way, so,  sometimes I can't avoid it...  And I am an absolute fan of film noir , or anything that slightly reminds me of it.

 


Affinity Designer and Affinity Photo licenses, Windows 7, i7  860 (2009) 2.8 GHz,  8 GB RAM, GTX 1050 2 GB, HD 7200 RPM.  Wacom Intuos 4 XL.

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Ah, so I'm not the only one here who toys with poser? I'm actually in the process of designing a book cover for my daughter's next book (she's a crime mystery writer)  --- and doing a render in poser as I type this.

BTW, nice work.

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C&C are always very welcome - I make no bones about not being an artist (which is also why I'm not comfortable doing things for friends but I've a couple of them who do ask) and while I've little ambition on my part, I'm always happy to glean anything I can from the advice from those who are and are willing to give it.

Poser anatomy has always been a little odd and I'm afraid that I'm working with some fairly old models that I was able to purchase a lot of stuff for cheaply in sales over the last couple of years (I think you can only afford to get into using it if you go the route of buying the old stuff cheap - this wouldn't be a viable way of producing cheap covers otherwise).

Poser's camera always needs a bit of adjusting from the defaults. I must admit, I thought I had it just right when I rendered and certainly, nothing noticed in the faux painting - but when the arm was overlapped against the white panel, divorcing it from its context, then things started to look tricky as it just pops right out. There was a bit of creative selection and lightening up all round which helped but now that you mention it, I suppose it may even be possible to shorten the arm a little within Affinity, so I might just give that a go when I get back from my holiday (I'm just having a last cup  of tea before I leave). I'll re-post if I manage it.

I shall also have a go at that thumb :)

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Poser is tricky, but everything can be altered before rendering. Length of forearm, upper arm, thumb, everything (although I don't do much with it any more). Lots of free resources outside of poser that work with poser. For a while, DAZ gave away Vickie if you downloaded their software. Poser can import those models.

The biggest trick with poser is (for me anyway) getting the render right. With people, it's the subsurface rendering that has to be close. Gives it a more realistic feel.

BagginsBill's tips (think I got the name right) over at Renderosity helped me a lot with improving my render settings, but I still get impatient sometimes. Still using poser 9 ... too cheap to upgrade.

 

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